Anime Review | Kekkai Sensen (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Drew Hurley 29.10.2015

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Kekkai Sensen

When looking at the biggest anime of the 1990s, there are some that are essential viewing for any fan, regardless of when they began watching. There are mega hits like Neon Genesis Evangelion, Cowboy Bebop and, of course, Trigun. Trigun was a masterpiece, well loved to this day and with good reason. Every aspect of the anime was done impressively, with memorable, well-developed characters, great world building, and a story the viewers really grew to care about. It's hard to find anyone who has seen the show that doesn't love that space cowboy with a heart of gold who just wanted Love and Peace. The creator, Yasuhiro Nightow, has had side projects since the success of Trigun but his first foray back into the world of manga, Kekkai Sensen, hit in 2009 and now has been turned into a 12-episode series, but does it capture the same magic that made Trigun such a success?

Kekkai Sensen crafts a world that gives the potential for so many great stories. One day in New York, a huge explosion rocks the city and a gateway to another world appears. This event is later known as "The Great Collapse" and turned out to be disastrous to both worlds involved. It needed "Casters" from both worlds to come together and raise a barrier to stop the collapse, but the world would be forever changed. New York becomes known as Hellsalem's Lot, a Lovecraftian melting pot of all manner of creatures, and within it a clandestine organisation known as "Libra" that fights from the shadows to keep the inhabitants safe, both human and inhuman.

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This whole new world of aliens, demons and all manner of other creatures suddenly being thrown together with humans makes for a beautiful chaos. With the stage set, the story follows a young boy called Leonardo Watch, who, after a traumatic experience, is gifted the All-Seeing Eyes of God, a quirky Deus Ex Machina that allows him to see everything. A chance encounter with an agent of Libra when Leonardo visits Hellsalem's lot, results in him joining the organisation. The series uses the classic "Monster of the week" style of story-telling, and it has independent and original stories to each episode, while slowly developing an underlying threat known as the Blood Breeds.        

These Blood Breeds are a group of vampires that seem to be running things behind the scenes, like the antithesis of Libra itself. Initially, it's thought there are only thirteen of these in the world, living inside of a chasm deep beneath Hellsalem's Lot. Leonardo's eyes reveal their true strength, establishing a conflict running through the series. Much like the original Trigun anime adaptation, the series uses many plot points from the manga but tells an original tale, with some brand new characters. It doesn't rely on exposition to explain everything, instead establishing the world and its inhabitants before telling the story. It's a form of storytelling that does particularly well, not feeling the need to handhold the viewers and instead just crafting the world and developing the characters within it.

The design of the characters is superb, and with the human characters there is plenty of Nightow's style shining through. The Libra member Zapp is channels the cool from Nicholas D. Wolfwood and the other members of the cast all manage to be memorable. The non-human residents of New Hell Salem's lot are great, too, filled with a wide and unique range of creatures. These designs are brought to life beautifully thanks to Studio Bones, known for high-quality art and animation.

Originally the final episode was announced to be broadcast on 27th June in Japan, however, it was repeatedly delayed past this date - first to 4th July, and eventually all the way up to 11th October. The reason was that the studio announced it would not be possible to conclude the series with a regular length episode and that it would instead finish with a double length one. They then had issue finding an available time slot of that size… Now, the final episode has finally hit and it was worth the wait - a spectacular send off to possibly the best anime of the spring season. Eventually.

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10
Of all the anime of Spring 2015, Kekkai Sensen is the must watch. It excels in every aspect and deserves to be remembered for a long time to come. A rich and stylish creation, filled with compelling characters and a story that takes inspiration from some cult classics and infuses it with Nightow's original vision to create something special. Easily on par with Trigun, and easily the best thing to come out of the Spring 2015 season.

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